Thisbe Vos: "Under Your Spell"

June 2013

Under Your SpellImpeccable, Sophisticated Singing

Prime Productions
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

The title of the first album by Thisbe Vos was Sophistication, and that might well describe the mood and manner of Under Your Spell, her second CD. As she sings five timeless classics and seven new tunes that she authored, Vos gives the impression of a singer-songwriter who has arrived at the top and who needs only more exposure to comfortably stay there. I can't imagine anyone who loves music not loving Vos. And that's both as singer and songwriter.

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Mustered Courage: "Powerlines"

May 2013

Mustered CourageVirtuoso Bluegrass from Down Under

Self released
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Folk music will never die. It will be revisited and reinvented by each new generation. Mumford & Sons are the latest and most recognizable incarnation, mixing rock and a few drum sets in with the banjos and guitars, resulting in sold-out arenas. Miley Cyrus has even touched on country and folk lately, and the result might surprise you. I believe there's folk music in the heart of every great performer. America is so rich in it that it's hard to ignore.

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Denise King & Olivier Hutman: "Give Me The High Sign"

May 2013

Denise King & Olivier HutmanBold Singing from Denise King

Cristal Records CR 209
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Talk about successful hands-across-the-sea unions! Denise King was born in Philadelphia and got her first singing experience in clubs in the City of Brotherly Love. Olivier Hutman was born in France and has quite a lengthy resume as bandleader, sideman, and film-music composer, having made over 200 recordings. The two met, toured together, and now have released Give Me the High Sign, their second album together. It sounds like they have known each other for a long time when actually their association has been very brief. But based on what I hear on this dynamic CD, their partnership should go on for a very long time.

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Thomas Gansch and Georg Breinschmid: "Gansch & Breinschmid Live"

April 2013

Gansch & Breinschmid LiveMadcap Music for the Concert Hall

Preiser PR91239CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

If you want to poke fun at music, it helps to be a virtuoso, a title that both Thomas Gansch and Georg Breinschmid can easily claim. Trumpeter Gansch and double-bass player Breinschmid met in 1997. Each had impressive credentials performing classical music, and together they decided to quit that business and play what they wanted to play, which included just about everything. They are now well on their way to joining the ranks of such famous music spoofers as Spike Jones, Victor Borge, and Anna Russell. They'd be right at home at the Hoffnung Music Festival concerts as well.

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Ben Sidran: "Don’t Cry for No Hipster"

March 2013

Don't Cry for No HipsterBen Sidran's Totally Hip 35th Solo Album

Unlimited Media 5638090383
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

In his written notes for this upbeat retro CD, Ben Sidran reminds us that hipster was originally a term used during Prohibition to describe a dude who arrives at a club with a flask in his hip pocket. If you were "hip," it meant you had booze. Later on, other meanings started to define the word -- anti-establishment, cooler than cool, the height of "it." Cannonball Adderley is credited with saying, "Hipness is not a state of mind. It's a fact of life."

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Raquel Bitton: "Rhythm of the Heart"

March 2013

Rhythm of the HeartA Magnificently Recorded Tribute to Tino Rossi

RB Records RB 4302

Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Raquel Bitton has spent a large portion of her professional life recreating the art of Edith Piaf. Bitton has performed her hit show, Raquel Bitton Sings Piaf -- Her Story, Her Songs, three times at Carnegie Hall and in music halls and theaters across North America. A PBS docu-concert film of the show, Piaf: Her Story, Her Songs, still continues to air on PBS stations. If you like Piaf (and who doesn't?), you'll enjoy Bitton's new CD, Rhythm of the Heart, though it is devoted to the memory of a different singer, Tino Rossi (1907-1983).

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Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: "Melody Magic"

February 2013

Melody MagicThe Melody's the Thing in This Hot Club Collection

Azica AJD-72248
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I am generally opposed to juicing up classical music. Back in the late days of disco, there was a series of recordings called Hooked on Classics that took themes from classical compositions and set them to a drum machine with a disco beat. Though I was amazed at just how many different melodies could be set this way, I was appalled that anyone might really record these efforts. To top things off, a local movie theater (which I attended at least once a week) latched on to the first LP in the series to play between movie showings. Needless to say, I started being a little late to shows, and at the film's end I moved myself to the back door so that at the instant the last credit was shown I could flee before being aurally assaulted.

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Laila Salins: "Elevator into the Sky"

February 2013

Elevator Into the SkyA Poetic Excursion into Insanity

Alectrona Records
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was the United States' most famous confessional poet, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1967. She had severe mental illness for most of her short life (which she ended by suicide), and she wrote of her suicidal tendencies, her battle against depression, and her efforts to come to grips with God. Her verses are so full of rich and vibrant impressions that it is no wonder to find that Elevator into the Sky is not the first time her poetry has been set to music.

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Tim Mahoney Band: "Shine Through"

January 2013

Shine ThroughAmiable Music from Minnesota

Self released
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

This CD came to me in such plain guise that I assumed it was a first effort from some teen or college guy trying to get a foot in the door. The jacket is single-fold cardboard and lists just tracks, band members, and recording studio, along with a brief note of gratitude: "Thank you to all the fans and family and friends that keep me inspired to keep singing. I'll keep singing." Heartfelt, just as the album turned out to be.

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The Summarily Dismissed: "To Each!"

January 2013

To Each!Brassy Swagger from a Sophisticated New Band

Laureniac Song
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Ari Shagal has made my January zing, brushing away gray skies, chilly winds, and pitifully short days with her bold, brash, electrifying album, To Each! Shagal channels Laura Nyro, Donald Fagen, jazz in general, Broadway, and a lot more, and she proves to be a triple-threat performer, singer, and composer/arranger.

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